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Reasonable suspicion versus probable cause

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2022 | DWI |

A Minnesota police officer must have a legitimate reason to make a traffic stop. He or she must also have probable cause to make an arrest. Many times, these two issues intersect, particularly in cases where a patrol officer suspects someone of drunk driving. Understanding the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is a key factor in being able to defend one’s rights leading up to, during and following a DWI arrest.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that having reasonable suspicion means that a reliable conclusion may be drawn about human behavior by use of common sense and reason. Reasonable suspicion is not merely a “hunch,” but a conclusion spurred by facts and circumstances in conjunction with the use of critical thinking skills and common sense. For instance, if a police officer witnesses a vehicle weaving over the yellow line, he or she might determine that a traffic stop is merited because of erratic driving behavior.

Probable cause is needed to make a DWI arrest

Various issues might cause a vehicle to veer over the yellow line (a driver was stung by a bee behind the wheel, for example), which is why reasonable suspicion alone is not enough to make a DWI arrest. A police officer must take additional steps to determine whether there is probable cause to take a motorist into custody on suspicion of drunk driving. Probable cause means that the average adult who reviews the circumstances would conclude that the evidence indicates that a crime has been committed or that the person in question was planning to commit a crime.

What constitutes probable cause for a DWI arrest?

Minnesota police may determine probable cause to make a DWI arrest in numerous ways. For instance, if a driver takes a field sobriety test and fails, it constitutes probable cause for an arrest. Any individual who believes his legal rights were violated in connection with a DWI arrest may bring the matter to the court’s attention as his or her case is processed.